tv Nancy Grace HLN October 31, 2009 8:00pm-9:00pm EDT
represented ma mavepl we begin with remarks by senate majority leader harry reid. this lasts about an hour and a half. >> members of the united states house of representatives. the united states senate, the senate majority leader, the speaker of the house, the honorable edward brooke, and the president of the united states. [applause] [applause]
>> ladies and gentlemen, majority leader of the united states senate, the honorable harry reid. [applause] >> everyone, please be seated. november 6, 1962, was a special day for president john kennedy. it was a day his brother ted won his old seat in the united states senate. the seat he would hold for the next 46 years, until just two months ago. a seat from which he would greatly improve the lives of his fellow americans. but on that election night, president kennedy took particular notice of another result from that same ballot in massachusetts. the people of the president's home state had elected edward brooke to be its attorney general, making him the first
african-american to hold statewide office in massachusetts and the first african-american to serve as any state's attorney general. president john kennedy exclaimed, and i quote, "that's the biggest news in the country." today is another meaningful day for our nation. we gather under this hallowed dome to present senator brooke with the congressional gold medal, the highest civilian award presented by the legislative branch 2 1/2 years after senator edward kennedy introduced the bill that would make this event possible. as we honor senator brooke here today, we're honored to be joined by mrs. vicky kennedy, who is with us this morning. [applause] >> we're also honored to be
joined by the president of the united states, president obama. [applause] >> distinguished members of the house of representatives in the united states senate. the director of the united states mint. senator brooke's wife anne, his son edward, and all of you. >> ladies and gentlemen, please stand for the presentation of the colors by the united states armed forces color guard, the singing of our national anthem, and the retiring of the colors.
wonderful blessing of senator edward william brooke iui. we're grateful that his labors helped make real the promises of democracy. we praise you that this talented pioneer bore his burdens in the heat of the day in order to build bridges over which the margin alized could travel. thank you for his willingness to endure hardships as he left exemplary footprints on time sands that have inspired so
many. today as senator brooke's nation honors him with the congressional gold medal, remind us all of the time when we will stand before your throne. may the inspiration we have received from senator brooke's life prepare us for that great day. we pray in your sovereign name, amen. >> you may be seated. ladies and gentlemen, the president of the united states, the honorable barack obama. [applause] >> thank you.
thank you. thank you very much. please be seated. thank you so much. it is an extraordinary privilege to be here today, and let me begin by acknowledging this distinguished group gathered on the platform. our extraordinary speaker of the house, nancy pelosi, majority leader harry reid, republican leader mitch mcconnell, majority leader steny hoyer, republican leader john boehner, senator john kerry, representative eleanor holmes norton, respective patrick kennedy, my dear friend vicki kennedy, to our honoree, senator brooke, his wife anne, and family. it is a great privilege to be here today as we confer the
congressional gold medal on a man who spent his life breaking barriers and bridging the divide, senator edward brooke. now, with his lifetime of achievement, it is no stranger to a good awards ceremony. he's been through a few of these. he's won the bronze star. the presidential medal of freedom, honorary degrees from 34 colleges and universities, and more. so he's a pro when it comes to getting awards. but i think today's honor bears a unique significance. bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member, presented in this place where he moved the arc of history, surrounded by so many, myself
included, who have followed the trail that he blazed. ed's journey to this day was by any measure an unlikely one. raised nearby in the neighborhood so fiercely segregated, that black residents needed a note from a white person to pass through. at a time when so many doors of opportunity were closed to african-americans, others might have become angry or disillusioned. they might have concluded that no matter how hard they worked, their horizons would always be limited, so why bother? but not ed brooke. serving in a segregated army, barred from facilities at the base where he trained, he fought heroically in europe, leading a daring daylight attack against the heavily armed enemy. rejected from boston's old line firm despite his success in law school, he established his own practice, handling everything from wills and divorces to real
estate and criminal cases. and when he ran for statewide office in massachusetts and one reporter pointed out that he was black, republican, and protestant, staging office in a white, democratic, and catholic state, and also "a carpet bagger from the south and poor," ed was unfazed. it was, to say the least, an improbable profile for the man who would become the first african-american state attorney general and the first popularly elected african-american senator. but that was ed brooke's way, to ignore the naysayer, reject the conventional wisdom, and trust that ultimately people would judge him on his character, his commitment, his commitment, and his ideas. he ran for office to bring
people together who have never been together before, and that he did. i don't know anyone else whose fan base includes glorious steinem, barney frank, and ted kennedy, as well as mitch mcconnell, and george w. bush. that's a coalition built. [applause] and few have matched his reach across the aisle from working with title nine so girls can compete on a level playing field, to sponsoring the fair housing act with walter mondale, small business legislation with ted kennedy, one of the many bills he would sponsor with the senior senator from massachusetts. he didn't care whether a bill was popular or politically expedient. democratic or republican. he cared about whether it helped people, whether it made a difference in their daily lives. that's why he fought so hard for
medicare, for mass transit, and the minimum wage, for civil rights and women's rights. it's why he became a lifelong advocate for affordable housing, establishing protections that are the standard to this day. a record that defies the labels and categories for which he had little use and even less patience. when pressed to define himself, he'd offer phrases like creative moderate or a liberal with a conservative bend. but in truth, ed brooke's career was animated not by a faith in any particular party or ideology, but rather in the face in the people he served. ed always got to see the best in people because that was the effect he had. maybe it was his old fashioned manners, his unfailing courtesy and warmth. maybe it was his charm and charisma, known to melt even the staunchest adversary. or maybe it was his genuine interest in people's stories, the way he listened to their
concerns and worked to ease their struggles. whatever it was, even if people didn't fully agree with him, they saw how hard he fought for them and how much they respected him and he respected them back. they rose to meet his esteem for him. around ed, people wanted to be their better self-s. over the years ago, he made an impression on just about everyone he encountered including a young congressman named john f. kennedy, whom he met back in 1952. the two men had a lively conversation, and as they parted ways, the future president said, you know, you ought to be a democrat. and ed smiled and replied and said, you know, you ought to be a republican. it was a sentiment that in many my party would share, including the president's brother, our dear friend ted kennedy. while ted campaigned vigorously for ed's democratic opponent, the two later became lifelong friends. four decades later, ted would campaign even more vigorously to secure ed's nomination for this
medal. so while we grace senator brooke with this honor today, perhaps a better tribute to him would be to embrace that spirit. to compete aggressively at the polls. but then work selflessly together to serve the nation we love. to look for the best in each other. [applause] to give each other the benefit of the doubt. and remember that we're here for a purpose far greater than the sum of our own hopes, needs, and ambitions. that's the legacy of our friend, senator edward brooke. and may we each do our part to carry it forward. thank you, god bless you, congratulations to senator brooke, and god bless the united states of america.
>> please be seated. ladies and gentlemen, the honorable john kerry, united states senator. [applause] >> madam speaker, mr. majority leader, and distinguished colleagues in congress from both parties, ladies and gentlemen and members of the brooke family, our colleague ted kennedy was born into history. he was part of history throughout his life. he made history, and he knew history. and it was his respect for ed
brooke's role in history and his personal affection for ed brooke that led him to champion this congressional gold medal. obviously, we're so delighted that vicki kennedy is here today , and his great friend, my colleague now in the senate, paul kirk is here with us to celebrate this moment. in one of his first sermons after finishing his studies at boston university, martin luther king jr. observed the thing that we need in the world today is a group of men and women who will stand up for right and be opposed to wrong wherever it is. a group of people who have come to see that some things are wrong whether they're never caught up with, and some things are right whether nobody sees you doing them or not. before his mission was cut tragically short 14 years later,
dr. king met countless men and women who he enlisted in the cause, but one who became his confidant was edward william brooke iii, whose journey we honor today. like so many of us, ed was moved by the eloquence and actions of dr. king. but there were also times when doctor. king was moved by ed. especially when dr. king himself conflicted, sought ed's counsel on the vietnam war before taking his own moral stand against the conflict. ed came to this capitol as we know in 1967, and the president spoke eloquently a moment ago about his journey in the army and his contributions to the country before that. before his journey here in the congress really began in 1962 when, as the majority leader reminded us, president kennedy said of his election, that's the biggest news in the country.
well, there was bigger news ahead. not because of ed's race, but because of the job he did as massachusetts' attorney general. he was a vigorous prosecutor of organized crime and worked closely with local police departments to solve one of the great crimes in our history, the boston strangler. massachusetts elected ed to the united states senate not because of the color of his skin, but as dr. king hoped, because of the content of his character. the man massachusetts sent to the senate became known immediately for his independence, public service, whose compass was guided not by party, but by conscience. he was one of the first advocates of legislation to provide affordable housing in america. and when it was especially difficult, he stood up for affirmative action,
desegregation, privacy rights, minority business development, increase in social security benefits, and extension of the voting rights act. shortly after the assassination of his friend doctor. king in 1968, ed became the first to propose a national holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. he said, "it would be fitting to pay our respects to this noble figure by enduring public commendation of his life and philosophy." it took 15 years for the rest of america to catch up to ed brooke. it wasn't the only time. ed broke with president nixon over his southern strategy and its unsavory appeals to racial prejudices. he knew it was wrong to win an election, but lose your conscience. he opposed three of president nixon's supreme court nominees. he voted to impose a timetable
on president nixon to withdraw american troops from vietnam. he introduced the legislation as a republican for the appointment of a watergate special prosecutor. he was the first senator in either party to call for president nixon's resignation, and he counseled president ford against pardoning the ex-president. ed demonstrated the same kind of independent thinking as a member of the historic turner commission, which president johnson appointed in 1967 to investigate the causes of race riots that occurred that year. the commission warned that america was "moving towards two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal." and after leaving the senate, ed served on the panel president reagan appointed to investigate the damage inflicted on japanese americans, citizens who were placed in internment camps at the outbreak of world war ii.
in 1980, the panel recommended reparations and a formal apology, and five years of delays later, congress finally passed a resolution doing just that. that's leadership. i proudly sit in the senate seat once occupied by ed brooke. when i first came here, my greatest booster was his mom, who lived to be 100, and ed brooke, i might say, is following in her footsteps. he turned 90 just last monday. [applause] in 2005, i had the privilege of writing the senate resolution awarding this same medal, the congressional same medal, to jackie robinson, hips a trailblazer, who once said, life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.
that's the kind of life ed brooke has lived, a life of service and the struggle for equal opportunity, the great work of making more perfect our union. in his autobiography, ed wrote this. it is my fondest hope that some readers of this book reflecting on my role in our nation's long political struggle for equality, opportunity, and justice in america, may be moved to continue that battle in their own lives and in their own eras. the torch must be passed from generation to generation if america is ever to fulfill its promise. as we look around this rotunda today, as we look at the great accomplishments of these last years, the presence of our president here earlier, we say, ed, your great hope is coming through. the torch is being passed to a generation that has learned from your example of doing what is
right, whether nobody sees you doing it or not. as dr. king said, that is the test. it's your example, ed brooke, and your journey that we are so pleased to honor here today. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the honorable eleanor holmes norton, united states representative. [applause] >> thank you. as democratic and republican leaders of the senate and house,
members of congress from both houses, ladies and gentlemen, senator edward w. brooke, anne, and the brooke family, let me guess, senator brooke. when you went to shaw junior high school, to dunbar high, and to howard university, all in your home community, not far from here, you may not have envisioned the capitol rotunda as the setting to celebrate your 90th birthday. which, of course, occurred just two days ago. and we thank the leaders of the senate and house for timing today's ceremony accordingly. happy 90th birthday, senator edward w. brooke. [applause]
you may have been an improbable senator, a man born in the district of columbia who goes off to world war ii without the right to vote for president or mayor or a member of the house, much less senator. perhaps improbable, but certainly not an accidental senator. it took a man of extraordinary talent, will, appeal, and confidence to become the barack obama of the 20th century before barack obama was even born.
by being elected the first african-american to sit as a united states senator, you did it in 1967 when millions of african-americans in the united states were still denied the right to cast a vote at all. senator, if you weren't a hurdle jump athlete as a boy, you certainly have made upwards as a man. which of your hurdles have seemed most steep to you at the time? becoming a decorated officer in the segregated 336th combat infantry regiment during world war ii? was it upon your return when you
became an editor of the law review at boston university law school? why before you assumed the post did you think you could actually become chair of the boston finance commission? what made you think that a black man could win statewide office as attorney general, particularly in a state where 2% of the population was african-american? how in the world did you think that as a lifelong republican, which you remain today, you could be elected to anything in overwhelmingly democratic massachusetts? the hurdles you jumped, senator, were so high that your heroic
feats have led your hometown residents to dare to believe that after two centuries, the same congress that gives you the congressional gold medal today will give voting rights to the people of the district of columbia this year. [applause] you empowered yourself long before the residents of your hometown empowered themselves. when residents of your hometown first got the right to vote for local officials in 1974, you were already serving your second term in the senate. but you never forgot your
hometown. you brilliantly served massachusetts. and the people of the district of columbia today salute the people of massachusetts, whose intelligent courage sent you to washington to serve their state and our country. you understood well, though, that the source of your values and your character and your confident determination are rooted in the district, and you repeatedly introduced bills for home rule and voting rights for the residents of the nation's capitol at the same time that you were leading the way on the great national issues of the day, opening relations with china, ending apartheid in south africa, the brooke amendment providing the tenants of public housing pay no more than 25% of
their income for housing, the fair housing act and so much more. it is massachusetts that sent you home here to give your talents to your country. but we in the district of columbia will always claim you, senator, as we claim so many of the nation's luminaries born and raised in the district of columbia from dr. charles drew, who discovered the method used today to preserve and store blood plasma for blood banks, to duke ellington, whose generals you was nur -- genius was nurtured in hometown d.c. before he gave his music as a gift to the world. the country recognized your breakthrough achievements when
in 2004 president george w. bush awarded you the presidential medal of freedom, which along with the congressional gold medal, are the highest honors our country can give. the congress of the united states today gives you honor where you served. awards even to the least among us too often are characterized as historic in the hyperbole of the moment today, but when senator ted kennedy asked the senate and i asked the house to vote overwhelmingly to award you the congressional gold medal, the senate and the house together demonstrated that we know a historic figure when we see one.
however, senator brooke, the highest awards our country can offer are not given for being historic. they are given for service. in your case, service to the united states of america and service to the people of the state of massachusetts. and, yes, senator, indescribably appreciated service to the people of your hometown, the district of columbia. would you join me in singing "happy birthday"? it's not too hokey to sing it. ♪ happy birthday to you happy birthday to you happy birthday dear senator brooke happy birthday to you ♪
[applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the united states house of representatives, the honorable nancy pelosi. [applause] >> good morning. what an honor it is to be here with the democratic leadership of the house and senate, with the brooke family anne and the children, with vicki kennedy and members of the kennedy clan. to be here with senator edward
brooke, to be here with the president of the united states. as the congress of the united states bestows its highest honor to a great leader, senator edward brooke. [applause] i will now lead off an array of leadership, senator reid, leader mcconnell, leader boehner, we call each other leader and all, and join patrick kennedy and senator kerry and our colleague congresswoman eleanor holmes norris in a series of tributes to senator brooke, in a very bipartisan way. and i heard bipartisanship applauded when president obama mentioned it, and senator brooke, in honor of your birthday, last night, leader boehner and i were there to
cheer on our bipartisan football team, democrats and republicans working as a team, and leading them with that great team work to victory over a formidable foe. we had a democratic-republican team win the day. and that spirit of bipartisan in your honor. in 1967, that was the year senator brooke came to the united states senate. at that time, "time" magazine noted him, he signals a new style and a new hope. as the first african-american popularly elected to the united states senate, senator brooke ignited more than four decades of progress toward the american ideal of equality. today we also note, as others have mentioned, senator brooke's partner was often his senior senator from the commonwealth of
massachusetts, senator edward kennedy. may i also acknowledge the members of the massachusetts dell inauguration, members of the house, along with our colleague john lewis who is here as well. it was ted kennedy who first escorted ed brooke into the senate chamber in 1967. he worked with senator brooke in a bipartisan way for their great state and it was senator kennedy's legislation has been acknowledged that gave us the opportunity joining with congresswoman eleanor holmes norton in the house, it gave us the opportunity to honor senator brooke with a congressional gold medal today. senator brooke came to the senate after a distinguished career, as we all know, as a public servant, as an army veteran, a civic leader in boston, attorney general of massachusetts, the first african-american elected attorney general in our country, and yet as senator brooke recounts himself, there were many who scolded his ambition
and encouraged patience. he says he was often asked, ed, why the rush? why are you in such a hurry? edward brooke was in a man in a hurry for equality. he was a man in a hurry for progress on civil rights, on ending the vietnam war, and national fairness, such as the minimum wage and ensuring affordable housing. today the brooke amendment, the brooke amendment, an amendment initiated by a republican senator, that means something to all of the people in our country, because it is synonymous, it signals a guarantee that public housing is affordable to all people. it is a corner stone of our current federal housing policy benefiting millions of americans. we salute you for that, senator brooke.
[applause] today we honor senator brooke for his impatience. we thank him for it. we acknowledge that it's through the impatience of senator brooke that we have moved forward as a country. it is with the impatience that we get ever closer to the ideals of our nation's founding to form a more perfect union. today as we convey the congressional gold medal to you, we extend on behalf of the entire congress, we all extend our congratulations and our thanks to senator edward brooke. thank you, senator. [applause]
>> ladies and gentlemen, the honorable patrick kennedy, united states representative. >> to my colleagues in government, speaker pelosi, leader reid, leader mcconnell, leader hoyer, leader boehner, and to my colleague, eleanor holmes norton, the original representative, senator brooke, senator brooke and his family, welcome. i am very humbled to be here today, certainly as a cond quit for a man who should be honoring his friend today, my father. ed was a type of friend over the past couple of years would just call and leave a message with vicki saying i just don't want to bother teddy and don't worry about having him call me back, but just let him know that i love him. theirs was a friendship forged
in the calderon of the great civil rights battles of the 1960's. it was nurtured by decades of mutual respect and admiration and a shared determination to make america live up to its highest goals and ideals. it's difficult to imagine because of people like ed brooke who saw the obstacles placed in their own path, as challenges to build a more perfect union for the next generation of americans. and in a sense, and certainly in my own case, each of us today stands on the shoulders of giants. today senator brooke, we're acknowledging you as one of those giants. our president made history coming to the office of president of the united states with the promise "yes, we can." our society is what it is today because people like ed brooke
proved, yes, we could. congratulations. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the republican leader of the united states house of representatives, the honorable john boehner. [applause] >> madam speaker, my distinguished colleagues, guests, and our special guest today, senator edward brooke and his family. henry david thorough, the famous american writer and poet from concord, massachusetts, once wrote, if one advances
confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet his success unexpected in common hours. during world war ii, ed brooke answered the call of his nation. he served with distinction in the italian campaign. but before that, he had the duty of defending young black soldiers who were subjected to the rank mistreatment of segregation. ed brooke became a soldier's lawyer, and those experiences shaped and inspired him to the call of public service. the commonwealth of massachusetts and the entire nation has benefited from ed brooke's service. he has shown bravery, commitment , and wisdom in his whole life, and we honor him today for that lifetime of achievement.
ed brooke's wife, in -- ed brooke's life and service to america are greatly appreciated. by ending decades of exclusion at some of the highest levels of our government, ed brooke's help reignite hope that had dimmed after the war. president lincoln once said, as our case is new, we must think and act anew. ed brooke is a dedicated public servant who broke down barriers and proved that america can act anew. congratulations, senator brooke. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, the majority leader of the united states house of representatives, the honorable steny hoyer.
[applause] >> senator edward brooke iii, an historic figure, a friend, someone to be used as an example. anne, we're pleased to have you and your family here with us on this wonderful day. anne, i walked into the room, you weren't standing beside ed then, and he asked me, how's your chief of staff doing? my chief of staff is terry. more importantly, his daughter is named brooke, after senator edward w. brooke iii. [applause] vicki, thank you for being here. we know ted is here with you.
upon his arrival in the senate, edward brooke tells us in his autobiography, the same senators who spoke out so forcefully for segregation were happy to invite me into their senate swimming pool. the same man who stoked the racial fears of their constituents, who did so much to hold back equality in this country, he said had no qualms about sharing their own pool with a black man. i'm sure ed brooke taught them a lot. if a senator truly believed in racial accept ratism, ed brooke said, i can live with that. he went on to say, "but it was evident that some members of the senate played on bigotry purely for political gain." the senate, of course, was not
alone. in that small incident, senator brooke saw how easy, how politically profitable it can be for leaders to foster the worst in those they represent, to be the representatives from fear, from suspicion, and from prejudice. as long as there are legislatures, there will be some who find that path all too tempting. as long as there are legislatures, our best defense lies in men and women who resist that choice. decent men. decent women who set out to represent the better angels of our nature. people quite simply like senator edward w. brooke iii. in this building, in part built with the hands of slaves, edward brooke made his name as a
champion of equal education, equal voting rights, and social justice. but most of all, even as he looked injustice squarely in the face, edward brooke saw what was best in america and strove to represent it. and he succeeded. in 1870, the first black senator took his seat in this building, his colleague charles summer in said this. today he said we make the declaration a reality. the declaration was only half established by independence. the greatest duty remained behind in ensuring the equal rights of all. we complete the work. so said senator sumner. ah, if he had only been right.
but we realize that the quest for living out the true nature of our constitution and its promises, as martin luther king jr. instructed us so well, remains an ongoing task. senator edward w. brooke iii carried on that task mightly and effectively. our greatest challenge here is to remain devoted to our nation's founding promise. even when we see it only half established. and to work for the day when it will be established in full. senator, we honor you with this congressional medal of honor because you have honored the principles and values of our country so extraordinarily well. god has blessed us through your service. thank you. [applause]
>> ladies and gentlemen, the republican leader of the united states senate, the honorable mitch mcconnell. [applause] >> i told senator brooke before we came on the stage that i had an opportunity to observe him during his first term as a senate staffer, in the back of the senate chamber. and you could sense even then that this was a man of historic significance. as others have said, edward brooke is known to history as the